Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Swirling Currents

A recent maritime themed gouache painting; thicker than usual for the whites, some active scraping with a palette knife for texture in the foreground. Thinking a bit about the French painter Eugene Isabey ( 1803-1886 ) here. It's been a while since my last post! I'm looking forward to contributing more studies on this blog, time to get busy.  

5"x 7" watercolor & gouache on hot pressed paper. * note - burnt sienna underpainting using transparent washes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Master paper making at the Ruscombe Paper Mill - France

What a remarkable experience to visit the Ruscombe Paper Mill in Margaux, France last month. The reason why this is a big deal is that it is so rare in our age of 3d printers and social media to make paper by hand. The puzzle of the past was tantalizingly revealed to me by a master paper maker still following time-honored techniques. There are not many handmade paper mills left in the world that create watercolor sheets in the old tradition, well before machines took over the process. The Whatman Mill in England offered the first woven paper in 1788 which kicked off a 100 year plus golden era of high quality durable watercolor papers. Sadly, it is no longer running.

The Ruscombe Mill really fills that void though. They began operations in the 1980's in England, then later moved to France. They create various fine papers in the traditional vein, but it was the accurate historical watercolor papers that caught my eye after doing some research online. I especially love their blue and gray Turner watercolor paper and variations of the more textured Girtin and David Cox papers- a true facsimile to the watercolor/wrapping papers available to watercolorists in old England.

It is a dream to paint on these papers, and I knew I had to give this actual mill feedback and tell them thank you! It goes without saying you have to stretch these papers to make them work at top performance. Once you do, you are in for a treat.

After I lined things up with various emails and phone calls, my wife, daughter and I navigated the beautiful countryside in the Aquitaine region in our rental car. We passed cinematic fishing villages and coastal farmlands north of Bordeaux, which is strewn with chateaux and vineyards. I had the pleasure to meet the founder Chris Bingham, his lovely wife Jane and current master paper maker at the mill, Frederic Gironde. Frederic was very generous to show me the start-to-finish creation of a linen/cotton rag sheet of paper.

At a larger scale like this (he makes 50-100 pieces/day), you need the ever important Hollander-type beater, a brilliant invention first developed by the Dutch in 1680. To produce the paper pulp, a cylinder with metal blades sets to work in an elliptical tub, grinding up small pieces of rags - passing under metal blades/cogs in a circulating fashion that creates the perfect wet pulp for pulling sheets via the vat pool. This machine is the workhorse of the handmade paper making industry from what I gather. The mold (frame with the additional deckle frame) in the top photo is pulled through the vat by Frederic with the rag pulp confined within the shape of the screen, thus creating the individual sheet size. The best types of molds are made from mahogany and brass. In this case it is a woven mold, made using finely woven wire vs. a laid screen that has a more pronounced parallel wire pattern embedded into the paper. The woven screen gives a nice even, yet varied texture to the sheet of paper. These types of frames are exceedingly rare and only a few craftsman make them now.

After the paper is formed (pulled) it can be touched up with a watercolor brush if there are any lumps or holes while still flooded yet horizontal in the mold. It is really a dance of having the pulp not too runny or too thick to make the ideal watercolor sheet. The mold is then tilted to a 45-degrees angle and then drained for 10 or 15 seconds. The deckle frame is then removed and the mold is turned upside down and placed on fairly thick sheet of felt. The paper is released in a rolling movement so to have an even pressure as it transfers to the felt's surface. This transfer is called 'couching' which is really transferring the sheet to absorbing felts. A stack or 'post' of felts can hold a variety of sheets to be drained further in a large mechanical press.

The last steps can continue with adding sizing (gelatine) to the sheets. This makes them transform from blotting-like paper that is very absorbent to something that can handle repeated washes and ink lines without unraveling back to the original fragile wet pulp. Due to use of high quality linen and cotton rags and the addition of internal and sometimes external sheet sizing, you have some very tough paper.  Finally, there is additional pressing, drying and separation. What a wonderland to see stacks of paper of various textures, uses and colors stored in the racks nearby. Not only was there watercolor paper, but pastel, drawing, printing paper- even paper that can be used for photographic printing. Frederic helped me select a few sheets to take home. How incredible to buy paper from the person who made it! To have a deeper understanding of your materials brings another dimension to your art. This rare behind-the-scenes look at a true artisan's workshop makes me inspired to apply the same craft and dedication to my own work.

-Erik Tiemens

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sketching in France & Upcoming Workshop news

I just returned from an inspiring spring trip to France; sketching, painting, teaching and meeting fantastic folks everywhere. So many things to share. I was treated to a rare visit of an artisan paper mill near Bordeaux (Ruscombe Paper Mill), and they make some of the best handmade watercolor paper in the world. To meet the person making some of the paper I work on was an incredible experience. More on that soon.

On the workshop front, closer to home I will be teaching an Intro to Watercolor and Gouache painting Workshop in San Francisco next weekend (May 3-4, 2014) Please sign up, there is still time! And if you only have a day, you can come that day, Saturday or Sunday.

Art Show News

I am also pleased to be part of an upcoming group art exhibit with a talented group of painters - 'A California Spring' at Holton Studio Gallery - Opens May 3, 2014  5 to 7 PM.  Emeryville, CA  (Map)
I hope to see some of you there!

Artists exhibiting: Kevin Courter, Bill Cone, Sharon Calahan, Christin Coy, Mark Farina, Robert Flanary, James McGrew, Robin Moore, Paul Kratter, Terry Miura, Ernesto Nemesio, Paul Roehl and Richard Lindenberg

France Trip

Below are various sketching spots (Loire Valley (Amboise), Angouleme, Aquitaine region, Dordogne Valley) and absolute museum heaven in Paris (Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, and the Gustave Moreau Museum, along with Musee Delacroix). Last but not least, the spectacular cathedrals and chateaux were simply mind blowing in their numbers and layers of history. Chartres Cathedral is especially noteworthy along with the vertical rock-cliff wonder land of Rocamadour in southwestern France.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Cliff Painting in Gouache - Short Video

Cliff Painting in Gouache from Erik Tiemens on Vimeo.

 Pacific Cliffs - 11" x 13" - gouache and watercolor on blue-gray toned watercolor paper. This was traditionally stretched with gummed paper on gator board.

More Demo Videos on my website

Be sure to visit my website, www.watersketch.com to see more demos and workshop sign up info and available works for purchase.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Reductive lights and mixing Gouache with your Watercolors

Landscape with Fishing Barges at Low Tide
5" x 7" Watercolor and gouache on hot pressed paper 

I'm experimenting here with reductive sponging and lifting out techniques to reveal highlights in the initial gouache wash background. This works to introduce atmospheric texture and depth, especially in the lower cloud sections above the distant water. I like this approach, similar to a solvent/medium wash on canvas with oils; then later pulling lighter spots with a rag. After this I go over the blocked out areas with progressive layers of watercolor washes and gouache delineation. 

The roughly indicated foreground figures are in the spirit of 1600's staffage. Figures of different genres (workers, soldiers, farmers, etc.) that often decoratively populated Dutch Golden Age landscape paintings. These were typically done by other artists, collaborating with the landscape painter.  The specialist staffage artists you could say added the right amount of scale and interest to scenes that would otherwise be empty. Adriaen van der Velde is one of my favorite ones and a great painter and draftsman in his own right. He was especially gifted with subtle transitions of tone on animals and artisan/farmers that would seem to step into the 'theatrical spotlight'.

On the workshop front, folks are signing up. Please reserve your spot soon so you can be part of my Intro to Watercolor and Goauche Painting - Workshop. May 3-4, 2014, San Francisco, CA

In sharing more insights on this exciting combination of water based paints, I hope to bring dramatic improvements in your painting and technical knowledge on the matter!

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Spring Workshop 2014

Intro to Watercolor and Gouache Painting - Workshop coming up May 3 - 4, 2014 
San Francisco, CA

You are invited to join in this upcoming workshop, perfect for covering the basics. I'll use a solid approach through multiple workshop exercises and show you clear examples via demos. We will focus on creating flat washes, gradated washes, wet into wet washes, brush control and mastering a better understanding of your materials to know what you can achieve.

Color and tone will also be an important area of study. Intermediate painters are also encouraged to attend and the environment will strongly encourage personal experimentation with teacher feedback. Paper, brushes and pigments will be covered too. Know the possible ranges of your tools and media to better achieve artistic excellence in your work. Gouache has a notorious reputation as being a 'tricky' medium. I will show you easy steps to conquer those challenges and embrace the wonderful variation found in mixing watercolor and gouache together, as so many great artists from the past did. Turner, Winslow Homer, Sargent and Zorn come to mind. 

I look forward to teaching new and returning students.

Sign Up Here! 

Tiburon Marsh - watercolor & gouache - 9" x 12" - hot pressed paper

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gouache Study

Recent gouache figure study from life with an added base of warm light grey and red earth tones. Transparent washes here and there. Thick opaque white gouache added in the brighter areas.  I used a small bristle flat brush which is well worn for textural effects.

Gouache & Watercolor on hot pressed Fabriano/Artistico paper. 9" x 12" - image is slightly cropped.

I look forward to meeting everyone who signed up for the upcoming Intro to Watercolor & Gouache Painting Workshop at the Gnomon school in Hollywood, CA - March 1,  2014! There is still room for more folks to join!